Sick and tired of the same boring old skis?
Make skiing great again and grab a pair of J Skis
To find out more behind how J Skis got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews J Skis founder, Jason Levinthal
More about the episode...
Josh sits down with J Skis founder Jason Levinthal. J Skis, based out of Burlington, VT, was founded after Jason Levinthal left his previous companies, Line Skis and Full Tilt Ski Boots to form a company where he could better manage moving parts and build it the way he saw fit. Piloted by a veteran skier and longtime entrepreneur, Jason frequently collaborates with artists and musicians to add culture to his brand, the skiing community as a whole, and of course to make skiing great again. J Skis is a brand that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, but have put an incredible amount of time and effort into testing, prototyping, and quality control in order to make sure customers are getting a ski that they can rely on and have some serious fun on the mountain with.
Have an opinion? We want to hear it! Join the conversation and leave a comment, check out show notes, and get all the links mentioned in this episode below
- Head to J Skis website
- Cut to the chase and check out those twin tipped beauties
- Can’t decided which ski is for you? Ask Jason and get some expert feedback!
- The Who and Why behind J Ski
- You’re probably gonna need some bindings to go with that new pair of skis…
- Grab some J Skis threads
- More about J Ski’s warranty program
- More about shipping J Skis right to your door step!
- Grab some stickers and other J Ski accessories
- Stay updated with all things J Skis on their blog
- Videos to keep the J Ski stoke alive
- The best place to pick up a Ski chair
How did you get into skiing?
“When I went to college at the University Buffalo in ‘95, skiing was pretty bland it was all about racing… I wanted to make a twin tip ski so I started making them in college and started the company Line in ‘95…”
“Eventually in 2013 I left Line and Full Tilt; I have no ownership in those brands; and started J Skis in 2013 and started doing it very different than I had in previous decades.”
How are you doing J Skis differently from your previous businesses?
“The first thing is selling direct… literally one on one, email, talking by phone, listening to their input, building it…”
“Their all limited edition skis...so you have a really unique product that no one else in the world has. It’s the same model ski as another but, the graphic itself, sometimes a colab with an artist, a musician-- we’ll just come up with whatever's trending at the moment, build a few, and you have a one of a kind product…”
What made you step away from Line and push you to start J Skis?
“...I had these ideas of other ways of doing things that just don’t fit into what ended up being a big machine...change happens at a slower pace and there are many more layers of people and approvals and processes to get from point A to point B.”
“For me I’m looking around at all these micro brew ski companies, just really inspired me... and I said ‘god I just really want to get back to that’ and I can now that the internet is the way it is…”
What has the progression been like for J Skis?
“When I started I knew I wasn’t going to sell more than a few 100 pairs. Like I said, you have to hit two thousand pairs, at least that what I believe is the formula...That’s just the initial ‘ok, we’re starting we have money to make skis and market’…every year you get a little bit closer...”
How do you bridge that gap of your customers not being able to see, try, or feel the product before buying it?
“For me it’s just about removing all the obstacles like free shipping worldwide, done...there’s no ‘oh shit how much is this going to cost to get to me’...”
I” have a money back guarantee. So, you buy my skis, you go skiing on them… after three days of skiing you’re going to know if you like them or not and if you want to return them you can…”
“There’s a ski finder on my website in the navigation where you literally type in what terrain you like, and I personally email you back ‘this is what you should get’...”
Do you build in Burlington, VT where you’re based?
“The factory is up in Canada in Rimouski, Quebec...what I do is I give them the ingredients that I want to use...it’s a unique one of a kind ski, it’s just their hands building it instead of mine, their machines...”
“I work with Francois Sylvain...he’s my main guys, me and him, since the early days of Line have designed all the famous award winning skis together… He knows how I think, I know how he thinks and we build prototypes…”
“The key there is with our prototypes we’re not starting from scratch. There’s a baseline of information and knowledge that we have from working together and testing, probably over a thousand skis…and so you’re just re-massage and tweaking in constant evolution of whatever the next ski you make. Every time we make a new one it’s going to be different...”
What mentors have you had through this journey that’s gotten you to where you are now?
“There isn't anyone who I don’t listen to...I think that’s a big part of being able to succeed. Being able to open your ears even though I don’t have much patience to listen long, it really hits me hard…”
“Everyone's a mentor, man, if you open your mind to it. That’s how you get good ideas…”
What is J Skis commitment to sustainability?
I have no commitment, it sucks...I’m living Vermont, I’m super aware but, I’m also realistic and I’m not going to pretend to green wash it, as they say, and pretend to be doing something green, I’m not. Skis are not a green product, skiing is really bad thing for the environment…”
“The only good thing that comes out of it environmentally, is awareness and appreciation for being outside…”
What would you say is the hardest part about starting J Skis?
“The hardest part is money. I don’t come from money...financing it is hard as hell and managing it.
The hardest part about selling direct is there’s no guarantees. There’s no one promising me they’re going to buy them…”
What were the biggest mistakes you’ve made in starting J Skis?
“The biggest mistake I made was manufacturing skis when I started. I should have prototyped them and developed the product so I could really control and move fast. I should have outsourced them because it cost me so much more than I thought…”
What would say is one of your biggest fears moving forward?
“Running out of money again. It’s not because I want to be rich...it’s like you’re going going going and then spring hits and you’re dead...you’re out of business essentially but, you’re still doing things. That’s when you actually have to buy the materials and all the product to make sure you’re ready to go when it kicks off again...that’s the gnarly part about running a seasonal business…”
What advice would you give someone that wanted to start a business?
“The first advice is don’t quit your job and hopefully you already have one...Two, is to write a three year cash flow...instead of guessing just write it down on a spreadsheet.”
Jason walks us through what creating a cash flow should look like and how it should be structured.
Where do you see yourself in the future for you or your company?
“I just want to be sustainable, just stable, and I think I’m starting to see that light at the end of the tunnel to get there…”
Why did you stay in Vermont and not make the push to go out west?
- “When K2 bought line, I went out there for a week and we were running for our lives...I like to go outside and have snow in my front yards, it’s not like that everywhere. I like the ruralness of it but more importantly the culture…”